High Wycombe isn’t entirely bland. It has a chair museum – it used to fart out chairs like it now does hopelessness. The train station also has the largest retaining wall in all of Great Britain, making it ideal for suicides. In spite of these attractions, I left three years ago, and I am never, ever fucking returning.
It wasn’t the nightlife that drove me away, although it is utterly abysmal. Wycombe no longer even has a nightclub. The too-bright lights of Pure (formerly Time, formerly Eden, Insert suitably trendy utopic name here) are no more, long closed by the threats of administration and violence. This club, which coincidentally changed its name every time someone was brutally wounded on the dancefloor, and could even list an axe attack in its incident logbook, finally closed its doors in late 2012, leaving those seeking a VK and a fight for a tenner to find solace in the exceptionally crowded and rowdy Yates’ on the suitably named Frogmoor Street.
It also wasn’t not the recession-ravaged skeletal remains of a high street either, or the pound shops and congealed friend chicken outlets (of whom, a startling number rank at 0 out of 5 on the food hygiene scale). Nor was it the weird smell that exists almost everywhere in High Wycombe; a combination of fast food and pollution from the endless traffic that struggles to escape over the summits of the Chiltern Hills.
Instead it was the unhappy coexistence between the town’s two predominate racial groups; poorer South Asian in the central pockets of town, and wealthy Daily Mail reading white in the suburbs, that makes this town such an unhappy place to be. The complete ghettoisation of Wycombe that splits the urban area upon almost purely racial lines (when was the last time you saw an Asian face in Tylers Green, and how many white people linger on the streets of Castlefield?) has resulted in ever-brewing racial tension that gets worse year on year. The isolated incidents of racism that sadly occur more often than the Bucks Free Press and Thames Valley Police would happily report, and inaccurate prejudice that trades among both communities behind closed doors has resulted in these ethnic groups really fucking hating each other. Recent news events have featured organised local gangs exploiting young girls for sex; the conviction of Wycombe-based international terrorists and extremists, gang-related kneecappings, and stabbings. The bigoted tripe that spews from the mouths of just about everyone creates an atmosphere of permanent hostility just makes you want to get out. And once you do, you won’t come back.
If kicking the crap out of other people isn’t your thing (I’m assuming that being gang-mugged doesn’t appeal to most people either), then living in High Wycombe can only lead in one direction: manic, bi-polar, unparalleled depression.
Wycombe takes all the good things in life and distorts them, decays them, mutilates them beyond all recognition. The sun never seems to shine in Wycombe; the birds drag themselves through the sky; the young girls are all dowdy.
Maybe it’s the lingering influence of the town’s formerly-booming furniture trade, and the cloud that still hovers over the town’s old men who know that their lives can be summed up in the sentence, “Well, I made some chairs.”
Or could it possibly be the effect of being a commuter town of the highest order? That 70% of its residents couldn’t give half a shit about the state of the town, or the local social scene. No, they’re all busy lining their pockets in London all day and drinking Chateua Yquem in their high-hedged gardens all evening, feeling smug that they don’t have to go into the centre of town at all – their maid will do it for them.